Four years after the release of Warrior, Kesha Sebert entered into a heart-wrenching legal battle against her record company to be allowed to never work with Dr. Luke again. For those who are somehow unaware, Dr. Luke allegedly sexually abused Kesha for years (I say alleged because *technically* he was never found guilty in a court of law, nor was he charged for the crime. Never mind what I personally believe.). Despite losing the initial trial, she won the appeal, finally free. One year later, she released her first album in five years. This album, a true tale of triumph, opened the world’s eyes to her true talent and showed the real Kesha beneath the glitter and party girl façade. A symbol and inspiration to all survivors, Kesha Rose Sebert has truly given us a comeback story for the ages. And now, here is a track-by-track review of the album:
- Bastards: This song is an acoustic mantra, written by Kesha at four in the morning. It’s a reflection on self-love and ignoring what mean people say. It asserts that you shouldn’t let people bring you down or take credit for your successes. You are a rock star and no one can take that from you. The earnestness makes this one a quality track.
- Let ‘Em Talk (feat. Eagles of Death Metal): This track continues in a similar vein, but brings out Kesha’s inner rocker. However, it takes a song about haters and makes it more about herself. Instead of saying “fuck the haters,” Kesha decides to let them say what they’re going to say. She’s just going to keep doing her. It’s a song about acceptance. You can’t stop them from talking, but you can decide to just not worry about it. It creates a separation, like she and her detractors exist on completely different planes. It’s very freeing and a nice, fresh take on how to handle bullies. It’s one of my favorites on the album.
- Woman (feat. The Dap-Kings Horns): Backed by— what else?— horns, Kesha asserts some female pride on this anthemic jam. She cries, “I’m a motherfucking woman!” and declares she can take care of herself. She makes her own money and she makes herself happy. No, it’s not the newest word in feminism, but it’s super fun to belt out in the car. It’s another favorite.
- Hymn: This mid-tempo track finds Kesha building a community for the outcasts and weirdos of the world. While many find community in religion, Kesha knows that not everyone can rely on that. Thus, she wrote them their own “hymn,” as it were. It truly makes you imagine kids from all walks of life driving down the highway together with the top down, smiles on their faces and hair blowing in the wind. It’s a cute song and another favorite.
- Praying: This song is easily Kesha’s best song to date. It is heartfelt and emotional, a touching confessional on her recent dark experiences. For her own mental health, Kesha has decided it’s not her place to judge or hate this man. Instead, he’s got to work for his own salvation. But it’s her vocals and emotive skills that really put this track over the top. Finally, Kesha gets to show us what she’s been capable all along. It’s a very moving and personal track and easily my favorite song of hers period.
- Learn to Let Go: This song is Kesha’s call-out track to herself. She reflects on the advice she gives her fans and feels she is being hypocritical. Amid joyous pop, Kesha again determines it is best for her to move on and forgive. Despite the heavy content, this song is one of the lightest on the album. It is also a favorite of mine.
- Finding You: Despite not being country, this song has a strangely “Old West” vibe. Primarily guitar-driven, Kesha croons about soulmates and reincarnation. She posits that they can be together forever, because she will always find her true love in every life. She knows they’ll never truly be apart— even in death— because their love is so strong. It’s honestly another favorite.
- Rainbow: Another piano ballad, this one marks a turning point in Kesha’s life. She is slowly but surely climbing out of her depression and starting to look to the future. She wants to be a positive force, both for herself and others. This self-written track is one of the most introspective moments on the album, and is an easy favorite.
- Hunt You Down: Taking a page from the country music of old, this song is filled with stringy guitar and Southern twang. The song itself is a warning to her man that if he ever cheats, he better watch his back. It’s borderline mentally unstable and a little bit funny. Definitely one of the most fun songs on the album.
- Boogie Feet (feat. Eagles of Death Metal): This track is one of Kesha’s goofier songs. It’s a lighthearted song about dancing and having fun. It’s really cute, but the weakest on the album.
- Boots: This song is the most “class Kesha” on the album, reminiscent of some of her deep cuts from previous albums. It’s a reluctant love song, Kesha telling her boyfriend that she tried to keep it casual but just couldn’t. He caught her ever-running heart. And now he gets to see her naked. (Well, almost.) The chorus has an almost haunting sort of quality, giving this song a quirky twist. It’s the obvious glo-up from Animal’s “Boots & Boys” and a fast favorite.
- Old Flames (Can’t Hold a Candle to You) [feat. Dolly Parton]: A long-time fan of Dolly, this duet must be a dream-come-true for Ms. Sebert. Also, interestingly enough, Kesha’s mother Pebe actually co-wrote the song. While I’m not a big fan of Dolly’s vocals and think the song is okay, it’s still very cute and obviously a big moment for Kesha— one she absolutely deserves.
- Godzilla: Another Pebe Sebert original, this song is one Kesha has loved for years. The acoustic jam is about dating the bad boy and how everyone else reacts to it. It almost comes across as a comedy song (a la Phoebe Buffay), but something about it feels so genuine. And the Godzilla metaphor is kind of genius. This is a really fun cut.
- Spaceship: This album closer is Kesha’s chance to embrace her weirdness. In this acoustic track, Kesha claims to be an alien. While all metaphorical, there’s also something entirely honest about it. Kesha reflects on how different she is and how she doesn’t really belong with people, but it doesn’t come across as a cry for pity or try-hard. She states it simply as a matter of fact, which is really what makes the song work. It is a great way to end Kesha’s most personal album yet.
Kesha truly came back to pop music in a big way with Rainbow. It is a compilation of positivity and strength and I can’t wait to see what this rest of this era holds.